Princess Cruises accused of ‘indifference for the safety of their passengers' in lawsuit

Cruise line has displayed ‘callous disregard’ towards travellers, claims lawyer

Helen Coffey
Wednesday 02 September 2020 14:37 BST
Coral Princess had a coronavirus outbreak on board
Coral Princess had a coronavirus outbreak on board (Princess Cruises)

Princess Cruises has been accused of “callous disregard” and “indifference for the safety of their passengers” in a class action lawsuit.

A passenger has brought a suit against the cruise line after she contracted Covid-19 following a trip on the Coral Princess in March 2020.

In a 42-page complaint lodged in California, Kathleen O’Neill claimed that Princess and its owner, Carnival Cruises, had been negligent and inflicted emotional distress on passengers by allowing the Coral Princess to set sail from Chile on 5 March after there had been coronavirus infections recorded on other vessels.

O’Neill, from North Carolina, outlined the two outbreaks on other Princess Cruise ships, the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess, both of which happened before her cruise.

More than 700 passengers contracted Covid-19 while onboard the Diamond Princess after it set sail from Asia in February, resulting in 13 deaths, while the Grand Princess had 469 confirmed infections and several deaths.

According to O’Neill, she visited the Coral Princess’s doctor on 26 March for shoulder pain, but was not told that several passengers were already ill.

She alleges that travellers were not informed by the captain that “an unusually high number of people” were experiencing flu-like symptoms and told to stay in their cabins until 31 March.

“It was then, after everyone had been socialising and making purchases for about 26 days in an environment known to be susceptible to contagion, that the passengers were advised to take these precautions,” claimed O’Neill.

Five days later, it was announced that more travellers had fallen ill and that two had died.

O’Neill and her husband finally disembarked on 6 April and flew home, where she tested positive for Covid-19 three days later, reporting symptoms including a dry cough, high fever, chills and a sore throat.

In the class action, O’Neill is seeking to represent all 1,500+ passengers who were on the 5 March cruise.

“Not only do defendants show total indifference for the safety of their passengers, they seek to evade responsibility, contending that passengers must sacrifice their legal rights while being injured aboard their vessels,” a lawyer for O’Neill, Gretchen Freeman Cappio of Keller Rohrback LLP, told Law360.

Princess Cruises has filed a motion to dismiss the suit, alleging that there is no case because O’Neill could not demonstrate “concrete, harmful symptoms” caused by the virus or that the company intentionally inflicted emotional distress on passengers.

“Plaintiff allegedly suffered only minimal and common symptoms of COVID-19 — fever, sore throat and a cough — which required nothing more than Tylenol and rest,” said the cruise line.

“Under established principles of tort law, including Supreme Court precedent involving disease-based negligence claims, she must allege more than this de minimis harm in order to state a claim for relief.”

Cappio said the motion to dismiss the suit “perfectly encapsulates [Princess Cruises’] attitude of callous disregard” towards passenger safety.

The Independent has contacted Princess Cruises for further comment.

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